Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Hole in the Ceiling

I remember my mom describing my father's calling hours to me when I was younger. "Everyone came to see, Jimmy.  I know that going can be difficult for people but I found it so uplifting.  I needed to hear how wonderful he was.  I needed to hear about his kindness, humor, and love.  At a time when I had nothing, I could cling to the words people gave me.  Each person who came helped to ease my pain," she explained.

This will be a good thing, I thought.  Yes, you're trying to convince yourself of that, Jane.

I decided it would be a good idea to sit down and chat with Jack about what would be happening when we got to the church.  “Jack, Daddy will be in a casket.  Remember, Aunt Kathleen was in one when went to her funeral.  Dad will be in the casket and the top will be open.”  I explained.  I wanted him to know what to expect.  “Mom, I’m a little worried about it,” he said.  I told him, Jackie, I will be right there with you.  Uncle Steve, Grandma, Grandpa, Grammy and I will be right there with you.  It may seem scary in the beginning but he’s our dad.  We need to see him.”  “Okay, Mom,” he said.  We’ll be going first in a limousine and arrive before anyone else.  We’ll go in and see him and say a prayer.  I bet it won’t even feel weird after that.  I gave him a hug and sent off to get ready.  “Love you, Babes.” I called as he went into his room.

There were loads of people at my house when Steve arrived.  He was going to bring Jack and me and my parents would meet us at the church.  My church was a modern church with the altar in the center and three areas of seats around it.  The lights weren’t on when we entered the church.  The funeral director was there and chatted with Steve.  The casket was at the front and to the left of the altar.  It was strange to see it there; it looked out of place in the familiar surroundings of the church we visited weekly for many years.

I took Jack by the hand and said, “Ready?”  He said, “Yes, Mom,” and we walked up to see Rick.  He looked the same as he had for the past few weeks, puffy, pallid and sick.  “Oh Mom, I’m okay,” Jack said.  We said a prayer together and then went to look at the collage that Jack and Suzy had put together that was in vestibule of the church.  They were grand.  There were pictures of Rick at all ages and many pictures of the boys with Rick.  Jack was proud as everyone stood looking at the photos. 

Karen and Paul and family walked in and Jack walked over to Matt.  They had been best buddies since they were born.  Karen and I were seven weeks apart when we were pregnant.  We looked like Twiddle-Dee and Twiddle Dum when  we were together. The boys walked up to the casket to take a look at Rick together.  When they finished they went back to the pictures and were talking with their cousins.  People started to arrive and we formed a receiving line at the front of the church.  I lost track of him for awhile after that.

I can’t tell you that I remember everyone who came but when they started coming, it didn’t stop.  Many of my friends from school were there.  They looked odd in their “teacher gear” walking in.  I was so happy to see all of them.  It warmed my heart to feel their support.  A short little nun appeared before me and I was so shocked.  It was my principal, Sr.Karl Ann, from St. Philip’s where Steve and I had been.  Her smile melted my heart.  She was now superintendant of elementary schools.

My best friend from my childhood drove down from Rochester, NY to be with me.  She had even offered to come and spend a week with me to help out when Rick was sick.

Mary (bridesmaid), Terri and Kathy, all from Cortland came.  My friends, Lana (bridesmaid) and her husband Dick Riley were there. Students from St. Philip’s and their parents even came.

Many people were friends of Rick’s siblings, some I knew but others I had heard about.  Rick’s friends and employers came.  I was bowled over by how many people walked through those doors. Many people had a tale or two tell about Rick. I loved hearing the din of people talking and laughing about Rick.

At the end of the two hours, I searched for Steve and said, “I can’t do anymore. Get me out of here.”  He just started to make the transition and told people we would be back in two hours.  I was out of there.  Steve drove me to Karen’s and Paul’s house where my school had provided a dinner for my family.  It was overwhelming once again to receive the generosity of people.

I don’t think I could eat anything.  I was still feeling that nauseous pain in my stomach again.  We weren’t there long before it was time to leave again for the church.  Steve drove me back.  Jack ran off to be with his cousins.  They had discovered the coffee pot in one of the rooms that the church had provided.  They thought they were drinking coffee with caffeine and were acting like goof balls. The coffee was decaf, of course, and they were full of pounds of sugar they dumped in their cups. It was nice to see Jack laughing and carrying on for a change.

The night was a blur of people coming and going.  Several of my friends saw me but didn’t come up to see me.  I knew it was because of their issues with the death.  Remember, I was the one who had avoided dead bodies at all costs.  I could see the signs and know.  One friend had been with her dad at age eight when he died of a heart attack with her at the park.  I knew when I saw her weeping that none of that had to do with me; she was fighting her own demons.

It was grueling to see people for 4 hours. As soon as my watch indicated overtime, I found Steve and told him that I couldn’t do anymore.  He started the closing prayers and that was the end of it.  I was dying to go home and just have a cup of tea.  I had made it through the first leg of the journey.  I could see the finish line.

1 comment:

  1. Jane,
    I am so proud of you for putting your story out there. You have so much to share with the world. You are an inspiration to me. You have been through more than anyone I know and still you remain courageous, compassionate and positive through it all.